Coming back to thoughts from the IDC Conference, one topic of debate was whether advertising on blogs is okay and whether it sends the right kind of message. Let’s look at it both from the corporation and from the blogger’s point of view.
The Blogger Point Of View.
I personally think third party advertising (ie Nuffnang, Google Adwords/Adsense) is okay. You’re not directly endorsing whatever they’re advertising, just making use of your internet “real estate”. And just like the real world, if you have prime real estate (ie high blog traffic of the right demographics), then why not make some money out of it? After all you’ve worked hard to build that brand and/or community and adding value, no reason why you shouldn’t reap some reward.
What I do have issue with if going straight for advertising. Starting out blogs with the intention of selling space or drawing attention to your 125×125 boxes that you’re willing to sell at $15/week or whatever. It makes me question the validity of the blog and if I should worry about whether you’re telling me A is better than B because A is in one of the 125×125 boxes.
I’m going to condense this with the issue of trust. I haven’t had companies approach me with incentives in return to review stuff. One thing I did opt in for was Joseph Jaffe’s Use New Marketing To Prove New Marketing campaign, where I receive a copy of Join The Conversation and post a review in return. (It’s coming soon). I think that’s fine for three reasons:
1) It’s directly in my niche
2) Jaffe doesn’t ask for a positive review, just an honest review.
3) It’s clear that I got the book for free and I’m reviewing it in return, as opposed to when I plug books that I paid money for.
I think as long as people know that there was a sponsorship involved, they’re fine with it. The big issue is when they’re misled. Then the backlash really comes. For example if I took Jaffe’s book and said it’s God’s gift to marketers/PR agencies/advertisers/the whole world, but didn’t tell them I got $0.10 for every book sale that comes from me, that will hurt me when it comes out. And believe me, it will come out. (That said, I am not making money from Jaffe’s book in any way)
And as a blogger I’d treat any similar “freebie” the same way. I’d be happy to take your product and give it a spin, but the fact that I had that privilege, is not going to colour my review or thoughts either way.
The Corporation’s Point Of View
Many businesses don’t look to bloggers to get their word out yet, because they’re worried about control. What if I give the blogger A and he says A sucks. Well, it comes with the territory. If you don’t give the blogger that product, someone else is going to pay money for it and blog that it sucks anyway. The fault is the product, not the message.
I think the most important thing is not to come across as a company who wants the same thing every company wants (even if you do). Because bloggers will know. A great case study which happened in the US, but could well happen anywhere, is the GM sponsorship of a Manic Mommies event, as covered in CC Chapman’s Managing The Gray. It’s a lengthy case study and you should listen to the podcast to get the full story, but essentially they didn’t say “Here’s $30k, do what you want but plaster our logo everywhere”.
No, they listened to what the Manic Mommies needed and focused on finding the common space where they can add value and build relationships, which really is what this whole space is about.
Ultimately, this space is new and is ever-changing. But trust, transparency and reputation will always be important. The method of doing your advertising online, who you approach and the results may vary, but you have to do it right. Not just “right” in terms of achieving the right metrics and ROI, but right in the proper way that values people and relationships, which will pay for it self many times over in the longterm.